11 Fun Things To Do In The Phoenix Park That You Can’t Afford To Miss
On the outskirts of Dublin city centre, hidden away from all of the hustle and bustle, is one of Europe’s biggest city parks, The Phoenix Park, covering 1752 acres and one of the most popular places among Dubliners to spend a weekend.
The park opened its gates in 1747 and today attracts hundreds of people each day, but what makes it so popular? From the wild deer to the President of Ireland’s home, we’re going to fill you in on everything below.
We’ve put together a comprehensive list of 11 things to do in the Phoenix Park. Let us tell you, you’re in for some surprises.
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Where In Dublin Is The Phoenix Park?
You’ll find the Phoenix Park just over 4km from Dublin city centre. There are a couple of ways you can get there via transport.
There are a number of buses that stop outside a number of the parks’ gates; they include the 25, 26, 37, 38, 39, 70, and 46A.
If you’re thinking of getting the Luas, the closest stop to the park is Heuston Station, which is less than a ten-minute walk away from the park.
Anybody considering taking a train, you’ll have to get off at Heuston Station like the Luas.
Is The Phoenix Park Free To Enter?
The Phoenix Park is absolutely free to enter. It’s one of the few OPW (Office of Public Works) sites that you can enter without a ticket.
In total, 9 gate entrances surround the park, and the majority of them stay open 24 hours. You can enter any of these gates as you wish, whenever you like.
Things To Do In The Phoenix Park
There are quite a few attractions that you need to check out on your visit to the Phoenix Park. Here’s a list of them.
Catch A View Of Áras an Uachtaráin
Áras an Uachtaráin has been the home of the President of Ireland since the year 1938. Before becoming the residence of the Irish President, it was used by the Viceroys who administered British Rule in Ireland. Once Ireland gained independence, it was taken over and eventually became the Presiden’t’s property.
The house itself is nestled away behind a row of oak trees, but there is an area where they split and you can catch a glimpse of the wonderful chalky white building.
For those looking to get closer, tours of the house are available every Saturday of the year, but they have been paused since the beginning of the pandemic. Hopefully, they’ll resume soon.
There have been numerous sightings of the current President, Michael D. Higgins, walking his dogs around the area where Áras an Uachtaráin is located, so keep an eye out for him.
Attempt To Find The Phoenix Park’s Deer
The Phoenix Park isn’t just home to the President of Ireland; it’s also home to the 600 deer that run wild and free throughout the grounds. If there’s one thing you need to see on your visit to the park, it’s these fascinating creatures.
Originally imported from Britain, the wild deer were brought to the park for hunting and to live up to its original name, which was “Royal Deer Park.”
Because the Phoenix Park is so bloody big, finding these bad boys can be a bit of a challenge, especially during the daytime. A common huddling point for them is in the field in front of the Papal Cross. I’ve found them there a couple of times, so it’s always the first place I check. Just keep an eye out for a random group of people in an open area, and they should be there.
It’s advised that you keep your distance from the Phoenix Park’s deer, as they can snap at you if you get too close. Avoid feeding them. Stay a little way back and you’ll be fine.
Admire The Wellington Testimonial
The Wellington Testimonial is the tallest obelisk in the whole of Europe, stretching 62 metres into the sky. It’s also sometimes referred to as the Phoenix Park’s monument by people who don’t know its name. For those of you who have never heard of an obelisk before, it’s basically a narrow stone pillar that looks quite similar to a pyramid, only a lot skinnier.
Designed by Robert Smirke, the Wellington Testimonial was created to honour Arthur Wellesley, who was the Dublin-born Duke of Wellington. If you walk around the lone standing pillar, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the visual portrayal of Wellesley’s career that’s engraved on its walls. You’ll be taken away by some of the work.
The Wellington Testimonial is in a lovely area of the Phoenix Park. There’s a lush grass-covered area that gets really busy when the weather is nice (not often). Keep your picnic set on standby.
See The Animals At Dublin Zoo
Another popular thing to see in the Phoenix Park is Dublin Zoo. It houses over 400 animals that have come from all over the world that visitors can take a look at in a natural viewing area.
A self-guided tour through Dublin Zoo will take you to see the likes of spotty baby lion cubs and tall yellow-coated giraffes in the African Plains; maybe after you’ll even venture into the Gorilla Rainforest to encounter the powerful apes who rule the roost.
Dublin Zoo will be open from 9:30 am to 18:00 pm every single day. The last admission is at 17:00 pm, so get there before time runs out.
To find out about ticket prices for Dublin Zoo, you can see their website.
If you’re visiting Dublin Zoo during October and January, why don’t you check out Wild Lights? It’s a magical light display that takes visitors around the globe on an adventure. See here for more information.
Explore The Magazine Fort
The Magazine Fort is located at the back of the Phoenix Park in a south-eastern direction on top of St. Thomas Hill. It was built between the years 1734 and 1736 and used as an ammunition storage unit for the British government forces. As you know, Britain occupied Ireland for many years, and they placed a lot of their soldiers here to fight off Irish resistance.
You can walk or take a free guided tour of the fort. To get a ticket, you’ll have to get in touch with the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre. If you can’t get a ticket, you’re still able to walk around the outside of the fort as you please.
Locate The Papal Cross
In the heart of the Phoenix Park is the Papal Cross. It’s a gigantic cross that was placed there to mark the visit of Pope John Paul II, who visited Ireland in the year 1979.
On the day of the pope’s visit to the Phoenix Park, he held a religious ceremony for more than 1 million people who flocked to see the event. Many people struggled to get tickets to enter the event; that’s how in-demand it was at the time. It was a very special time in Irish history.
The cross is white in colour, made from steel and 116 feet tall. You can find the cross in the middle of the park down by Acres Road, where one of the many car parks in the Phoenix Park is located. It’s an ideal location to leave your car since it’s basically in the middle of the park.
Have A Walk Through People’s Flower Gardens
The twenty-two-acre People’s Flower Garden in the Phoenix Park is a wonderful area for a nice evening walk amongst flowers blooming in unimaginable colours.
These Victorian-styled gardens are a showcase of the stunning floriculture that the Phoenix Park has preserved since the year 1864.
When you visit other People’s Flower Gardens, you’ll immediately feel like you’re in a completely different place. It’s almost like you’re walking through a park within a park. There’s a quaint little stream that flows down the back of the grounds that you wouldn’t even know existed before you stumbled upon it. A wonderful number of surprises are there waiting to be discovered.
Learn About The Park’s History At The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre
The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre has a state-of-the-art showcase that depicts the park’s history and facts and gives visitors an insight into what went on in the park back in the day and how it has developed over time.
Visitors can take advantage of the entertaining exhibitions that are put on in the centre for free. The audio-visual tours are self-guided and provide you with the history of the park and wildlife. You can access the visitor centre 7 days a week from 9:30 am to 5 pm.
Head Back In Time At Ashtown Castle
Ashtown Castle is a tower house on the grounds of Phoenix Park that was once hidden behind the walls of a Georgian mansion.
It’s documented that Ashtown Castle dates back to the 17th century, but some believe it may have been around since the 15th.
When the walls of the Georgian mansion that surrounded it were knocked down, it was discovered that Ashtown Castle had been there the whole time. It was then redeveloped over the years and eventually opened up to visitors.
Ashtown Castle is beside the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre, so it’s pretty easy for you to take a look at both of them.
Become Mesmerized By The Phoenix Monument
The Phoenix Monument is a freestanding monument that sits in the centre of one of the roundabouts in the Phoenix Park. It was assembled in 1747 by the 4th Earl of Chesterfield and was made from Portland stone.
When you take a proper look at the monument, you’ll get an idea of how long it’s been around since it’s fading away. At the top of it, there’s a Phoenix bird rising from the ashes, which lives up to the park’s name.
Hire A Bike From Phoenix Park Bikes
At the Parkgate entrance to the Phoenix Park, you’ll find a company named “Phoenix Park Bikes”, which offers bikes for hire for pretty affordable prices.
Take on the 14km of trails throughout the park and tick everything off this list a lot faster than you would on foot. There are a couple of options available to rent, including standard bikes for adults, children’s bikes, kid carriage attachments, tandems, and much more. For prices, click here.
Looking for somebody to take you around the park? Phoenix Park bikes have a multitude of bike tours which can be designed for your needs. It’s easily one of the best activities to do in the park, especially if you’ve never been before.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Phoenix Park’s Opening Hours?
The Phoenix Park is open 24/7. Anybody who wishes to enter the grounds whenever they want is free to do so. There is constant traffic flowing through the park. If they closed the park between certain hours, there would be an uproar due to the park being an easy gateway to the city centre.
Is There Parking In The Phoenix Park?
Free parking is widely available in the Phoenix Park. There are a total of 8 car parks on the grounds that visitors can avail of. For more information about where they are, click here.